Smoke drifted across parts of Jackson County Thursday, produced by a fire within the lightning-sparked Miller Complex burning near Applegate Lake.
But smoke-weary residents can likely rest easy — forecasters say cooler weather will likely dampen the remnants of area wildfires and their smoke.
The 29,801-acre Abney fire, burning near the border of the Red Buttes Wilderness high above Applegate Lake, saw a recent growth of about 400 acres in the Dutch Creek area. That sent smoke hurtling into the Rogue Valley, dropping air quality in Medford and Shady Cove to "moderate" levels, according to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality data. Prior to that, both cities had seen 10 straight days of "good" air quality.
That 400-acre growth occurred "well within containment lines" on the fire, according to fire public information officer Meriden Vitale. The burning also took place in an area that was beneficial to the landscape, as it cleared a sizable amount of underbrush from an area that was overgrown, officials said.
On Friday, the Miller Complex, which has been burning since Aug. 14, had grown to 36,654 acres. It was 80 percent contained, with 55 percent containment on the Abney fire. The complex's 4,147-acre Burnt Peak fire and 2,093-acre Creedence fire are both 95 percent contained, according to the Incident Information System.
The Chetco Bar fire in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, has grown to 191,090 acres and remains at 97 percent containment. The High Cascades Complex, burning near Crater Lake, is at 80,152 acres and is 32 percent contained.
Thursday's short-lived reappearance of smoke is not expected to repeat, with cooler temperatures and a slight — very slight — chance of rain heading into the weekend.
"We have a cold front that's pushing inland," National Weather Service meteorologist Michelle Cohen. "It will bring colder, more humid conditions that should limit fire growth."
Temperatures should be in the low to mid-70s across the Rogue Valley Saturday, about 5 degrees cooler than normal. On Sunday, they will see a slight drop to the high 60s.
"We're not expecting rain, but temperatures should stay low," Cohen said.
The cooler weather also prompted the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Southwest Oregon District to drop the public fire danger level to low (green) and the Industrial Fire Precaution Level to 1 beginning at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.
— Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.